McCann names Chris Macdonald CEO and chair, Harjot Singh global CSO

McCann Worldgroup CEO Bill Kolb said the moves are about bolstering the strength of the integrated agency’s individual brands

Jan 11, 2021 05:27:00 PM | Article | Alison Weissbrot

While other networks are consolidating, McCann Worldgroup is doubling down on its agencies. 
The integrated agency network made two executive appointments on Monday to strengthen the leadership team at advertising agency McCann. Chris Macdonald, previously president of advertising and allied brands at McCann Worldgroup, will become CEO and chair at McCann. Harjot Singh, who was chief strategy officer for McCann Worldgroup EMEA, will move into the new position of global CSO at McCann advertising. 
The appointments are among the first major executive moves under McCann Worldgroup CEO Bill Kolb, who on Jan. 1 officially took the reins from CEO Harris Diamond after his retirement at the end of 2020.
“Quite simply, we believe that the strength is in our brands,” Kolb told Campaign US. “There's a lot of consolidation and pushing things together, but we want to be the best in every craft we're in, and that takes focus.”
While Macdonald was previously overseeing McCann, he was also responsible for specialist agencies that fit underneath the advertising umbrella. Now, along with Singh, he will take a more focused role at McCann in order to have leadership at the agency that’s “completely focused on the craft,” Kolb said.
“We're taking away some of the other ancillary agencies that reported to him and giving them to their craft agency,” he explained. For example, all agencies under the MRM banner will now report into CEO Kate MacNevin, who is taking on the additional title of chairwoman. 
The idea is to have a strong leadership bench at each agency that can focus on creating best-in-class teams with the ability to integrate. McCann is still looking for a global chief creative officer to complete the leadership team. 
Kolb described the strategy not as a change, but an “evolution” of the integrated model Diamond had bolstered during his tenure as CEO.
“It's about incremental focus on the craft,” he said. “Our goal is to be the No. 1 creatively-driven marketing organization, and focus is key to driving that objective.”
As for McCann’s role as the creative agency within the network, Kolb said: “I'm looking for them to continue to drive creativity and support that creativity across all agencies, particularly as we engage in more integrated business," adding that McCann Worldgroup currently has more than 20 global clients.
Having clearly defined leadership at each agency also makes it easier to integrate with other agencies under parent IPG’s “open architecture” model, where agencies are incentivized to work together for a particular client. And it allows the group to participate more clearly in pitches focused on specific craft areas. 
“The marketplace still consumes our services at the capability level,” Kolb explained. “We are incredibly focused on making each one of those things No. 1., and in the instance where clients want all of those things, we can integrate at the Worldgroup level.”
As Kolb settles into his new role, he is in active conversations with clients about how to evolve the agency business model to a more sustainable place. While it’s still unclear what a new pricing or business model would look like, “we have to stop having conversations about 15 minute increments,” he said. 
“It’s time for agencies to look at a business model that's existed for more than 100 years to drive better outcomes for clients,” he added. 
Another primary focus this year will be on equity, diversity and inclusion, where Kolb doesn’t want McCann Worldgroup to just lead the industry, but also the business world. Last week, the group promoted Singleton Beato to the new role of global EVP, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
As the topic moves from the sidelines to a fundamental part of the agency-client relationship, it will be a “No. 1 global priority” for McCann, Kolb said. The group is also focused on sustainability and is actively measuring its carbon footprint, which it will share along with plans to “significantly change the way we do business” in Q1. 
While it’s still not clear how and when McCann Worldgroup’s employees will return to the office given the ongoing pandemic, Kolb predicts a lot of trial, error and adaptation.
“The most powerful thing for the agency business that's come out of COVID is we now realize that the self-imposed barriers we've put on things were false,” he said.
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